Manga Answerman - Do They Ever Retouch Unpolished Manga?

by Deb Aoki,

Q: I've noticed that sometimes a chapter of a manga had some unfinished panels likely due to a shorter timetable to finish the chapter. Is this something that typically gets touched up before the tankobon is released, such as episodes getting improved before a BD release? Or do they leave it as is seeing as their week-to-week schedule is already hectic to begin with.

Rob J

Ah, let me start this response with an embarrassing story. So I was reading an chapter of Blue Exorcist in Weekly Shonen Jump a while back, and noticed that the latter pages of that particular chapter looked like it was just penciled sketches, not the usual detailed, black and white line art that Kazue Kato is known for. I thought it was a situation where the editors at VIZ accidentally grabbed the wrong files and hit “publish.” So what did I do? I sent a note to them saying, “Uhhh, is it supposed to look like this?”

The reply I got? “Well, that's actually how it looked in the Japanese edition of Jump SQ magazine, where it originally appeared. You can check if you like.” Duuhrr. Boy, did I feel like a jerk for even mentioning it to them, like it was VIZ Media's mess-up! My bad.

ANYWAY! So you know all those scenes in manga where the editor is pacing back and forth, nervously waiting for the manga artist and their assistants to finish drawing and inking pages before deadline? Did you ever wonder what happens when the dreaded deadline comes and stuff isn't finished? Well, unlike how it is in some American comics, the publishing date for that comic doesn't get pushed or delayed until the art is finished, it gets sent to the printer in whatever shape it's in, and in some cases, it means publishing art that isn't finished or isn't quite polished.

The good news is that many artists do go back into these pages later and make whatever tweaks or adjustments that may be needed before the pages are sent to be published into book or “tankobon” format. It may not be as noticeable as those penciled-in Blue Exorcist panels – it might be things like changing the position of a character or touching up a sign on a building or tweaking a character's facial expression. Some manga artists 'fess up to these mistakes and having to correct them in their end notes or side notes between chapters in the printed edition.

As busy as manga artists are, doing these touch-ups are part of their job, and it's factored into their workweek / work month, either to be done by them, or by their assistants.

And that particular, unfinished chapter of Blue Exorcist I mentioned earlier? It was inked in and completed, so that I now barely remember which scene it was when I read my printed volumes of Blue Exorcist.

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Deb Aoki was the founding editor for Manga, and now writes about manga for Anime News Network and Publishers Weekly. She is also a comics creator/illustrator, and has been a life-long reader of manga (even before it was readily available in English). You can follow her on Twitter at @debaoki.

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